Saturday, December 26, 2009
Happy New Year Crumb from Mummy Troll
I have had ambivalent feelings about Mummy Troll's music and this video doesn't help.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Джан Ку (Jan Koo)
Russian alternative rock from St. Petersburg.
Obama's Legacy of Lost Hope
If nothing else the election of Barak Obama was to negate the authoritarian legacy of the previous administration and its totalitarian enactments. This past week however the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the right to declare arbitrarily nonperson hood by executive fiat and thus justify torture, loss of legal standing, and thus "disappear" in the South American sense represents a profound failure. No one is safe anymore in the eyes of the law. I post in its entirety Chris Floyd's comments which have received far too little attention:
"Written by Chris Floyd
Friday, 18 December 2009 14:18
While we were all out doing our Christmas shopping, the highest court in the land quietly put the kibosh on a few more of the remaining shards of human liberty.
It happened earlier this week, in a discreet ruling that attracted almost no notice and took little time. In fact, our most august defenders of the Constitution did not have to exert themselves in the slightest to eviscerate not merely 220 years of Constitutional jurisprudence but also centuries of agonizing effort to lift civilization a few inches out of the blood-soaked mire that is our common human legacy. They just had to write a single sentence.
Here's how the bad deal went down. After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president's fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a "suspected enemy combatant" by the president or his designated minions is no longer a "person." They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever -- save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials.
This extraordinary ruling occasioned none of those deep-delving "process stories" that glut the pages of the New York Times, where the minutiae of policy-making or political gaming is examined in highly-spun, microscopic detail doled out by self-interested insiders. Obviously, giving government the power to render whole classes of people "unpersons" was not an interesting subject for our media arbiters. It was news that wasn't fit to print. Likewise, the ruling provoked no thundering editorials in the Washington Post, no savvy analysis from the high commentariat -- and needless to say, no outrage whatsoever from all our fierce defenders of individual liberty on the Right.
But William Fisher noticed, and gave this report at Antiwar.com:
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal Monday to review a lower court’s dismissal of a case brought by four British former Guantanamo prisoners against former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the detainees’ lawyers charged Tuesday that the country’s highest court evidently believes that "torture and religious humiliation are permissible tools for a government to use."
...Channeling their predecessors in the George W. Bush administration, Obama Justice Department lawyers argued in this case that there is no constitutional right not to be tortured or otherwise abused in a U.S. prison abroad.
The Obama administration had asked the court not to hear the case. By agreeing, the court let stand an earlier opinion by the D.C. Circuit Court, which found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – a statute that applies by its terms to all "persons" – did not apply to detainees at Guantanamo, effectively ruling that the detainees are not persons at all for purposes of U.S. law.
The lower court also dismissed the detainees’ claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Geneva Conventions, finding defendants immune on the basis that "torture is a foreseeable consequence of the military’s detention of suspected enemy combatants."
The Constitution is clear: no person can be held without due process; no person can be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. And the U.S. law on torture of any kind is crystal clear: it is forbidden, categorically, even in time of "national emergency." And the instigation of torture is, under U.S. law, a capital crime. No person can be tortured, at any time, for any reason, and there are no immunities whatsoever for torture offered anywhere in the law.
And yet this is what Barack Obama -- who, we are told incessantly, is a super-brilliant Constitutional lawyer -- has been arguing in case after case since becoming president: Torturers are immune from prosecution; those who ordered torture are immune from prosecution. They can't even been sued for, in the specific case under review, subjecting uncharged, indefinitely detained captives to "beatings, sleep deprivation, forced nakedness, extreme hot and cold temperatures, death threats, interrogations at gunpoint, and threatened with unmuzzled dogs."
Again, let's be absolutely clear: Barack Obama has taken the freely chosen, public, formal stand -- in court -- that there is nothing wrong with any of these activities. Nothing to answer for, nothing meriting punishment or even civil penalties. What's more, in championing the lower court ruling, Barack Obama is now on record as believing -- insisting -- that torture is an ordinary, "foreseeable consequence" of military detention of all those who are arbitrarily declared "suspected enemy combatants."
And still further: Barack Obama has now declared, openly, of his own free will, that he does not consider these captives to be "persons." They are, literally, sub-humans. And what makes them sub-humans? The fact that someone in the U.S. government has declared them to be "suspected enemy combatants." (And note: even the mere suspicion of being an "enemy combatant" can strip you of your personhood.)
This is what President Barack Obama believes -- believes so strongly that he has put the full weight of the government behind a relentless series of court actions to preserve, protect and defend these arbitrary powers. (For a glimpse at just a sliver of such cases, see here and here.)
One co-counsel on the case, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, zeroed in on the noxious quintessence of the position taken by the Court, and by our first African-American president: its chilling resemblance to the notorious Dred Scott ruling of 1857, which upheld the principle of slavery. As Fisher notes:
"Another set of claims are dismissed because Guantanamo detainees are not ‘persons’ within the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – an argument that was too close to Dred Scott v. Sanford for one of the judges on the court of appeals to swallow," he added.
The Dred Scott case was a decision by the United States Supreme Court in 1857. It ruled that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants — whether or not they were slaves — were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States.
And now, once again, 144 years after the Civil War, we have established as the law of the land and the policy of the United States government that whole classes of people can be declared "non-persons" and have their liberty stripped away -- and their torturers and tormentors protected and coddled by authority -- at a moment's notice, with no charges, no defense, no redress, on nothing more than the suspicion that they might be an "enemy combatant," according to the arbitrary definition of the state.
Barack Obama has had the audacity to declare himself the heir and embodiment of the lifework of Martin Luther King. Can this declaration of a whole new principle of universal slavery really be what King was dreaming of? Is this the vision he saw on the other side of the mountain? Or is not the nightmarish inversion of the ideal of a better, more just, more humane world that so many have died for, in so many places, down through the centuries?"
Our country is now a James Ellroy novel set to life.Corporations are now people and people are nothing.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Счастливый День Чекиста Or Happy Birthday to the Control Services of Russia
December 20th is a national Russian holiday dedicated to the security apparatus of the state. Felix Derzhinski, pictured above, is generally credited with founding the Cheka which has since evolved into today's FSB and other security services.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Brothers in Mind: Funky in Red Square
Definitely a favorite Russian Group, Bratya po Razuma or Brothers in mind makes some great music.
Why Are We in Central Asia?
Paul Jay and F. William Engdahl discuss some of the real motivations for the American presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is a discussion that is absent from the American scene which ignores the strategic and petro driven realities that the American public pays and pays and pays for.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Russia Today With Carl Dix RCPUSA
I can admire anyone who speaks to the reality or truth of a critical situation such as that we find ourselves in now. Carl Dix is one.
I can admire anyone who speaks to the reality or truth of a critical situation such as that we find ourselves in now. Carl Dix is one.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Copenhagen, Climate Change, E-mail Hacks from Siberia, plus some more Dub-TV
You might wonder what's going on here? Russian reggae, climate change, and now a somewhat strange explanation for the recent leaked e-mail climate controversy. While the world awaits the upcoming Copenhagen climate discussions with ever decreasing expectations several interesting developments are coming out.
Environment 360 reports that scientists across the globe are reporting if anything climate change is accelerating even faster than previously predicted:
"Ahead of talks in Copenhagen, a group of leading climate scientists has issued a new report summarizing the most recent research findings from around the world and concluding that scientists have underestimated the pace and extent of global warming. The report — titled “The Copenhagen Diagnosis” — finds that in several key areas observed changes are outstripping the most recent projections by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and warns that “there is a very high probability of the warming exceeding 2 °C unless global emissions peak and start to decline rapidly” within the next decade.
The report points to dramatic declines in Arctic sea ice, recent measurements that show a large net loss of ice from both Greenland and Antarctica, and the relatively rapid rise in global sea levels — 3.4 millimeters per year — as particular reasons for concern. Sea-level rise this century, it states, “is likely to be at least twice as large” as predicted by the most recent IPCC report, issued in 2007, with an upper limit of roughly two meters.
“Sea level is rising much faster and Arctic sea ice cover shrinking more rapidly than we previously expected,” Stefan Rahmstorf, department head at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said in a press release accompanying the report. “Unfortunately, the data now show us that we have underestimated the climate crisis in the past.”
There seems to be a fundamental disconnect on the part of politicians and much of the public as to the nature of scientific enquiry as if scientific observations of objective reality can be wished or negociated away. This was well expressed in the following comment by one of the researchers:
"“I’ve been to several of these meetings,” he said. “The delegates and the leaders say very kind things about the IPCC and thank it for its excellent work. But then, from a scientist’s point of view, once the negotiations start they might as well be negotiating, say, steel tariffs. I’ve actually heard politicians say — I won’t name any names — ‘We don’t want to be constrained by the science.’” But, he added, that only makes it more essential to get the information out.
“Not politicians and not money and not public opinion, but the climate system itself imposes a time scale,” Somerville said. “And if the world chooses not to stick within that, well, Mother Nature bats last.”
Meanwhile the source of controversial e-mails has been traced to a server in Siberia according to the Independent:
"The computer hack, said a senior member of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, was not an amateur job, but a highly sophisticated, politically motivated operation. And others went further. The guiding hand behind the leaks, the allegation went, was that of the Russian secret services.
The leaked emails, which claimed to provide evidence that the unit's head, Professor Phil Jones, colluded with colleagues to manipulate data and hide "unhelpful" research from critics of climate change science, were originally posted on a server in the Siberian city of Tomsk, at a firm called Tomcity, an internet security business. "
And what was the motivation?
"Much of Russia's vast oil and gas reserves lie in difficult-to-access areas of the far North. One school of thought is that Russia, unlike most countries, would have little to fear from global warming, because these deposits would suddenly become much easier and cheaper to access.
It is this, goes the theory, that underlies the Kremlin's ambivalent attitudes towards global warming; they remain lukewarm on the science underpinning climate change, knowing full well that if global warming does change the world's climate, billions of dollars of natural resources will become accessible. Another motivating factor could be that Russia simply does not want to spend the vast sums of money that would be required to modernise and "greenify" Russia's ageing factories.
But global warming also brings with it a terrifying threat for Russia, the melting of permafrost, which covers so much of the country's territory. Cities in the Siberian north such as Yakutsk are built entirely on permafrost, and if this melts, are in danger of collapsing, along with railways and all other infrastructure.
But many in Russia's scientific community are deeply sceptical of the threat from global warming. And only 40 per cent of Russians believe climate change is a serious threat, a survey shows."
And, as the above video suggests, there is a long standing, and understandable, Russian desire for warmer climes.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
The Other Surge
While the U.S. concentrates on its latest surge, another surge, in the Northern Caucasus is prepared by Russia to suppress an Islamic insurgency driven in part by heavy handed intervention. According to Reuters a large deployment is planned by the Russian government :
"An exiled Chechen rebel leader said Russia intends to greatly boost troop numbers in its mainly Muslim south to tighten its grip on the restive region.
The comments by grey-bearded Akhmed Zakayev, who was given political asylum in Britain in 2003, follow Georgian and Russian media reports last month saying Moscow would quadruple the size of its army in the North Caucasus in 2010.
Zakayev, quoting his contacts in the region, told Reuters an "enormous" quantity of troops would be stationed in the North Caucasus, which Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has described as the country's biggest domestic political problem.
A Kremlin spokeswoman would not comment on Zakayev's predictions of troop increases and the press service of the North Caucasus regional military also declined comment.
"They want to solve the Caucasus problem before the Olympics and tell the world they have eliminated terrorism," Zakayev, 50, said in the interview, conducted late last week. "This will also put the North Caucasus in their hands."
Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, located close to the Caucasus mountains.
Zakayev forecast the Russian government would explain a troop increase by saying there was a risk of further conflict with southern neighbour Georgia, against whom Moscow fought a brief war last year. He did not say when the surge would happen.
The mountainous Caucasus area stretches from the Black to the Caspian Seas, taking in the poor, Muslim-dominated Russian republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan and the former Soviet states of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Analysts and rights campaigners say a silent war is raging in tiny Ingushetia, with near daily violence spilling out into neighbouring Dagestan and Chechnya, where Russia has fought two separatist wars over the last 15 years.
Local leaders and analysts say widespread violence is fuelled by a potent mixture of Islamism, clan feuds and poverty.
Zakayev said the Kremlin plans curfews, roadblocks, spot searches and arbitrary detention for the entire North Caucasus."
Sounds very similar to the American struggle for pipelinestan as elucidated by our Hope We Can Believe In.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Leningrad Cowboys (Finland), Red Army Chorus (RU) Sweet Home Alabama (USA)
I really couldn't resist. A Finnish band with Russian Army back-up singing "Sweet Home Alabama".
Fighting Facism by Fighting Facism
The clip was entitled Action of Anti-Fascists at the walls of the Kremlin and makes use of the never ending flow of emotion from WWII.Laying flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at the Kremlin changes the conversation in Russia. It clearly places an awkward question on the lap of the state such as: Are we fascist now? Who really won? Turning the tables on corporate/government control is essential to genuine freedom.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Russian Reggae: Jah Divizion
Russian reggae has all the chops and depth one would hope for,and Jah Divizion is one of the best.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Unexpected Melting: Antarctica
A NASA satellite has detected unexpected melting in the East Antarctic ice sheet. As recently as 2005 it was felt this was an area gaining ice. Now, according to NASA, the opposite is occurring:
"Using gravity measurement data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) mission, a team of scientists from the University of Texas at Austin has found that the East Antarctic ice sheet-home to about 90 percent of Earth's solid fresh water and previously considered stable-may have begun to lose ice.
The team used Grace data to estimate Antarctica's ice mass between 2002 and 2009. Their results, published Nov. 22 in the journal Nature Geoscience, found that the East Antarctic ice sheet is losing mass, mostly in coastal regions, at an estimated rate of 57 gigatonnes a year. A gigatonne is one billion metric tons, or more than 2.2 trillion pounds. The ice loss there may have begun as early as 2006. The study also confirmed previous results showing that West Antarctica is losing about 132 gigatonnes of ice per year.
"While we are seeing a trend of accelerating ice loss in Antarctica, we had considered East Antarctica to be inviolate," said lead author and Senior Research Scientist Jianli Chen of the university's Center for Space Research. "But if it is losing mass, as our data indicate, it may be an indication the state of East Antarctica has changed. Since it's the biggest ice sheet on Earth, ice loss there can have a large impact on global sea level rise in the future."
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., developed the twin Grace satellites. The University of Texas Center for Space Research in Austin has overall Grace mission responsibility. Grace was launched in 2002.
More information on Grace is online at http://www.csr.utexas.edu/grace/ and http://grace.jpl.nasa.gov/.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Vladimir Putin: Hip Hop, Graffiti ?
A truly puzzling appearance. Perhaps he wants linkage to the younger Russian generation. The body language says not comfortable but young Russians are pretty hip.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Russian Techno Surf: Messer Chups
Its almost Sunday, time for Russian sacrilegious techno-surf music from Messer Chups/ Нож Для Frau Mueller.
Hungry (Starving almost) in the USA
The USDA reports that 14.6% of American families were considered "food insecure" in 2008. Interestingly the Bush administration wanted to stop these reports.
"In 2008, 85 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the entire year, but 14.6 percent of households were food insecure at least some time during that year, up from 11.1 percent in 2007.
This is the highest recorded prevalence rate of food insecurity since 1995 when the first national food security survey was conducted."
Meanwhile in Janesville WI, where GM has recently closed a plant, the UAW/GM Holiday food drive has ended after 25 years of service:
"JANESVILLE--The UAW/GM Employee Assistance Program holiday food drive of 25 years won’t happen this year.
“It just leaves a big hole in my heart and in the community,” said Marv Wopat, who has led the effort since the beginning with Nurse Nancy Nienhuis.
Wopat and Neinhuis made the heart-wrenching decision two weeks ago not to conduct the program this holiday season after two months of discussions, Wopat said.
Knowing what they had to have and don’t have, after so many years, brought them to their sad, depressing conclusion.
“There’s no way to get the money,’’ Wopat said.
“Our employees were the main source of all our money. We’d go up and down the line and collect the money,’’ he said.
The impact will be felt communitywide."
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Music with ДДТ: Premonition of Civil War
ДДТ is an enduring Russian group headed by Yuri Shevchuk out of St. Petersburg.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
While the MSM contiues to hype the "recovery" a few key issues go unreported that suggest the economy has long-term issues that will affect the U.S. economy over the next few years and decades. The Guardian reports on Peak Oil concerns that have tended to fall by the wayside in the so-called American recovery. These in them selves show why this is not likely to be a traditional down turn:
"The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.
The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.
The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation's latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.....
Now the "peak oil" theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. "The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year," said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. "The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today's number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.
"Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources," he added.
A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was "imperative not to anger the Americans" but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. "We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone. I think that the situation is really bad," he added."
The Independent gives further voice to these concerns that once again suggest that American powers that be feel the need to supress or marginalize the implications on American society while we watch the Palin media circus:
"In an interview with The Independent, Dr Birol said that the public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years – at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated.
But the first detailed assessment of more than 800 oil fields in the world, covering three quarters of global reserves, has found that most of the biggest fields have already peaked and that the rate of decline in oil production is now running at nearly twice the pace as calculated just two years ago. On top of this, there is a problem of chronic under-investment
by oil-producing countries, a feature that is set to result in an "oil crunch" within the next five years which will jeopardise any hope of a recovery from the present global economic recession, he said.
In a stark warning to Britain and the other Western powers, Dr Birol said that the market power of the very few oil-producing countries that hold substantial reserves of oil – mostly in the Middle East – would increase rapidly as the oil crisis begins to grip after 2010.
"One day we will run out of oil, it is not today or tomorrow, but one day we will run out of oil and we have to leave oil before oil leaves us, and we have to prepare ourselves for that day," Dr Birol said. "The earlier we start, the better, because all of our economic and social system is based on oil, so to change from that will take a lot of time and a lot of money
and we should take this issue very seriously," he said.
"The market power of the very few oil-producing countries, mainly in the Middle East, will increase very quickly. They already have about 40 per cent share of the oil market and this will increase much more strongly in the future," he said.
There is now a real risk of a crunch in the oil supply after next year when demand picks up because not enough is being done to build up new supplies of oil to compensate for the rapid decline in existing fields.
The IEA estimates that the decline in oil production in existing fields is now running at 6.7 per cent a year compared to the 3.7 per cent decline it had estimated in 2007, which it now acknowledges to be wrong.
"If we see a tightness of the markets, people in the street will see it in terms of higher prices, much higher than we see now. It will have an impact on the economy, definitely, especially if we see this tightness in the markets in the next few years," Dr Birol said.
"It will be especially important because the global economy will still be very fragile, very vulnerable. Many people think there will be a recovery in a few years' time but it will be a slow recovery and a fragile recovery and we will have the risk that the recovery will be strangled with higher oil prices," he told The Independent.
In its first-ever assessment of the world's major oil fields, the IEA concluded that the global energy system was at a crossroads and that consumption of oil was "patently unsustainable", with expected demand far outstripping supply. "
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Musical Interlude: Agatha Christie Opium for No One
An unusual Russian video considering the subject matter from an amazing group. It is interesting to consider that Pushkin was said to have African roots. He was also killed in a duel.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Mr. America/ Israel Tear Down These Walls
Walls, walls, does anyone see the hypocrisy in the U.S.?
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Sunday Musical Interlude: Tequilajazzz
A favorite Russian band of consistent quality. More here.
Extremists in Our Military
While the usual xenophobic speculation is churned in right-wing media sources after the massacre at Ft. Hood, a more concerning form of extremist infiltration has been going on in the armed forces for years without much notice. This would be neo-Nazis and white supremacists gaining access to military training and Lord knows what else courtesy of the U.S. Defense Department. The Stars and Stripes reported thus:
"In 2006, the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) released a report asserting that “thousands” of active-duty troops like clarkpatrick88 could have hate group affiliations. The law center said that some military officers conceded that recruitment and retention pressures forced them to look the other way when presented with overwhelming evidence of hate group membership.
Later, the FBI said it suspected hundreds of servicemembers had been recruited into extremist groups."
Opposing Views notes this is a problem identified since at least the 1990s:
"The SPLC again brought the problem to the attention of Pentagon officials in 1996, after three neo-Nazi soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg murdered a black couple in North Carolina in a ritualistic, racially motivated slaying. Pentagon regulations were strengthened following an investigation by an Army task force and hearings by the House Armed Services Committee.
But a decade later, military recruiters, under intense pressure to meet quotas for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, appear to have lowered recruiting standards, according to the SPLC's 2006 report. The report revealed that large numbers of neo-Nazi skinheads and other white supremacists were joining the armed forces to acquire combat training and access to weapons and explosives.
In 2008, the FBI released an unclassified report that supported the SPLC's findings. This past April, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report stating that right-wing extremists currently pose the most significant threat of domestic terrorism and expressing the concern that they may attempt to exploit the combat training and experience of returning veterans.
The SPLC letter notes that since 1994 the military has discharged more than 12,500 servicemembers simply because of their homosexuality. "It seems quite anomalous that the Pentagon would consider homosexuals more of a threat to the good order of the military than neo-Nazis and other white supremacists who reject our Constitution's most cherished principles," said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, which monitors extremist activity."
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Bankster-Con Showdown in Chicago
The American Bankers Association will be holding it's annual convention in Chicago next week and I want anyone who is interested to attend the "Showdown in Chicago", here are some links:
Showdown in Chicago
Chicago is an ironic place for bankster capitalists to hold any meeting considering its history in American workers struggle for something resembling a reasonable life.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Arms Control and the Мертваяа Рука
While the U.S. debates the meaning of Michael Jackson, balloon boy, tea baggers, the real meaning of irrelavent becomes more obvious. Recently details of a Russian "Doomsday Machine" have come to light which illustrates the idea that there are day to day existential issues that could snuff out all of our concerns in 30 minutes or less.
I always wondered why the Russians really didn't seem to be concerned about the immenint collapse of their early warning system. But now a post- mortem system makes alot more sense as explained by Valery Yarnyich:
"Yarynich is talking about Russia's doomsday machine. That's right, an actual doomsday device—a real, functioning version of the ultimate weapon, always presumed to exist only as a fantasy of apocalypse-obsessed science fiction writers and paranoid über-hawks. The thing that historian Lewis Mumford called "the central symbol of this scientifically organized nightmare of mass extermination." Turns out Yarynich, a 30-year veteran of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces and Soviet General Staff, helped build one....
"The point of the system, he explains, was to guarantee an automatic Soviet response to an American nuclear strike. Even if the US crippled the USSR with a surprise attack, the Soviets could still hit back. It wouldn't matter if the US blew up the Kremlin, took out the defense ministry, severed the communications network, and killed everyone with stars on their shoulders. Ground-based sensors would detect that a devastating blow had been struck and a counterattack would be launched.
The technical name was Perimeter, but some called it Mertvaya Ruka, or Dead Hand. It was built 25 years ago and remained a closely guarded secret. With the demise of the USSR, word of the system did leak out, but few people seemed to notice. In fact, though Yarynich and a former Minuteman launch officer named Bruce Blair have been writing about Perimeter since 1993 in numerous books and newspaper articles, its existence has not penetrated the public mind or the corridors of power. The Russians still won't discuss it, and Americans at the highest levels—including former top officials at the State Department and White House—say they've never heard of it. When I recently told former CIA director James Woolsey that the USSR had built a doomsday device, his eyes grew cold. "I hope to God the Soviets were more sensible than that." They weren't.
The system remains so shrouded that Yarynich worries his continued openness puts him in danger. He might have a point: One Soviet official who spoke with Americans about the system died in a mysterious fall down a staircase. But Yarynich takes the risk. He believes the world needs to know about Dead Hand. Because, after all, it is still in place."
Valery Yarynich has been writing for some time for whoever would listen about arms control which is an unexplored issue beyond small countries that pose a small existential threat to the U.S. Some of his stuff follows:
"President Putin went against the standard official calculations of the military and ignored its fears regarding a future National Missile Defense (NMD) system and its influence on the effectiveness of Russian nuclear retaliation. It is not known for certain whether this was his personal decision, based on common sense, or he listened to the arguments of those experts who managed to escape the habitual framework of evaluating the sufficiency of nuclear deterrence that was established over the years of the Cold War.
In Russian and foreign open sources, the scheme for such traditional calculations is occasionally presented. It is brilliant in its simplicity: Let's say Russia has 5,000 nuclear warheads (blocks) in combat alert. After an initial powerful US attack (not necessarily nuclear) only 200 will remain (also hypothetically). Let's say the US has an NMD with 90% effectiveness. Then, "calculations show" that 20 blocks from the Russian retaliatory attack will reach their targets on US territory. If this result is not considered adequate for deterring the US, then Russia's security cannot be guaranteed. Wonderful!
The numbers used in this example are conditional, and they are not important. The important thing is that this method itself is incorrect: one cannot use fixed (averaged) evaluations of the extent of the attacks (the first attack of the aggressor as well as the retaliation) and the effectiveness of the NMD system. All of these processes work on chance, and in the multiple modeling of every concrete scenario of the war, one gets a large range of various results of retaliation. The correct method is to evaluate all of the results instead of using only the most likely (the most frequent) outcomes for the conflict. "
The clearer meaning comes in a Global Research piece:
"Admittedly, the Russian EWS is now weakened. However, if it is able to detect even a small part of the American attack, then it is impossible to rule out the possibility that Russia will react by utilizing the policy of Launch on Warning (LoW), i.e., launching its missiles before the attack is confirmed by nuclear detonations. The number of nuclear warheads in a Russian LoW strike will be far more than in case of a pure LuA (Launch under Attack) variant.
Thus, the implied ecological admissibility of a nuclear strike, the procedural and technical complexities of ordering and executing a surprise attack, and the assumed full inability of Russian EWS together constitute too many assumptions to be built into such a definitive definition of “Nuclear Primacy”.
A more detailed and technical version of the Foreign Affairs article can be found in the spring 2006 edition of International Security (see “The End of MAD? The Nuclear Dimension of U.S. Nuclear Primacy”). Yet even in this longer version of their article, a language of assumptions remains the characteristic feature of the methodology of Lieber and Press.
For example, they write, “The Russian early warning system would PROBABLY not give Russia 's leaders the time they need to retaliate; in fact it is questionable WHETHER it would give them any warning at all. Stealthy B-2 bombers COULD LIKELY penetrate Russian air defenses without detection. Furthermore, low-flying B-52 bombers COULD fire stealthy nuclear-armed cruise missiles from outside Russian airspace; these missiles — small, radar-absorbing, and flying at very low altitude — would LIKELY provide no warning before detonation.” We think this isn't the language of serious proofs, especially on such an important theme.
Lieber and Press state that, “Our model does not prove that a U.S. disarming attack against Russia would necessarily succeed. Nor does the model assume that the United States is likely to launch a nuclear first strike. Even if U.S. leaders were highly confident of success, a counterforce strike would entail enormous risks and costs.” We must ask: if this is so, then how can they predict that “a surprise attack at peacetime alert levels would have a reasonable chance of success”?
As for our own assessment of the model, which is described in detail in International Security, it is as follows:
The authors have used an analytical type of model, in which a studied process is imitated with the help of formulas. However, it is well known among experts that creating a more or less correct description of a nuclear war through an analytical model is a hopeless task.
It is necessary to take into account an enormous number of different factors. Even if someone is able to offer a formula (or set of formulas) for each of these factors, it will be impossible to combine them as a whole within the framework of such a complex process.
In any case, such an “analytical conglomeration” will be incredibly difficult to accurately evaluate. We believe a statistical imitation model (SIM) is the preferable medium for such studies.
Apparently, Lieber and Press understood this difficulty very well, for there are only two simple formulas in their calculations: one formula to determine a “lethal range” against a given Russian target, and a second formula to calculate a “single-shot probability of kill” for the selected American warhead. They model only an immediate process of destroying Russian targets, and only for concrete types of “warhead-target” pairs. The authors offer an artificial picture such as the following: American warheads “lie” near Russian targets, and at “X” moment all of them are detonated simultaneously. It isn't clear from their explanations how individual assessments are combined to tables of results for all Russian nuclear forces.
Therefore, one can say that the authors tried to imitate only the small, final part of the huge process of a nuclear war. Many other serious elements also remained beyond the scope of their research. One should not assume that there will be a 100% probability of such events as:
a) the strict implementation of launch order by all American duty crews in full accordance to the selected structure of a nuclear first strike (and this structure itself also isn't clear in the given case); i.e., a human factor may be decisive for the real size of an American first strike. Will ALL American duty crews be able to push the button against Russia on one of the cloudless days of peacetime?
b) the inability of the Russian side to use either a LoW or LuA response. Each of many possible variations of a first strike must take this likelihood into account. For example, if all American warheads are launched simultaneously, then they reach targets at different times, and Russia can use information about nuclear explosions for its response. On the contrary, if the structure of the first strike provides a synchronous arrival at Russian targets, then the total flight time required for the American strike is sufficiently large enough to allow Russia a better possibility to detect the initial U.S. launches;
c) the somnolence of all Russian nuclear forces. As we have noted, the slightest sign of a U.S. preparation for a first strike will immediately lead to an increase of combat readiness of at least some part of Russian strategic nuclear forces. Thus, the probability of their survival will be far greater than in case of the variant offered by Lieber and Press;
d) the destruction of the Russian nuclear command and control system (C3). The authors believe that this system will be completely neutralized. However, some portion of the Russian C3 could survive to launch all remaining missiles even after absorbing a U.S. first strike.
It is extremely important to note that the method of “fixed” assessment of results used by Leiber and Press is essentially incorrect. They contradict themselves. On the one hand, they discuss a “95 percent confidence interval” for all these calculations. On the other hand, they say nothing about “non-typical” results within the remaining 5%. However, these “non-typical” results are far more important for a correct assessment of a risk of a first strike than all others listed in Table 4 (Model Results) and in Figures 1-3.
Usually, for ordinary studies of a process with an accidental nature, it is correct to utilize the most probable results for assessment, and ignore the non-typical ones. Lieber and Press transmit this correct rule to their modeling of a nuclear war. This is a serious methodological mistake.
The absolutely unique consequences of nuclear war dictate the need for a quite opposite approach: we are obliged to estimate a risk through the most unacceptable results, even if they are non-typical. Lieber and Press must study this 5% in the first place, but instead they ignore them! This calculation involves the death of many millions of people and quite possibly the destruction of civilization — it cannot be made lightly.
They write, “some probability of nuclear retaliation far below 100 percent should deter almost any prospective attacker. They [critics] err, however, by assuming that any level of first-strike uncertainty will create a powerful deterrent effect. There is no deductive reason to believe that a country with a 95 percent chance of successfully destroying its enemy's nuclear force on the ground will act as cautiously as a country that only has a 10 percent chance of success.”
In our view, this is the main error of Lieber and Press. The decisive factor is the EXISTENCE ITSELF of unacceptable results of retaliation, independent of their probability and size. This is because the individual probability of unacceptable results among all possible results of modeling does not play the decisive role; ANY of the calculated results IS possible if a real nuclear war occurs; i.e., IS, but not ARE, because a real nuclear war is possible only one time.
In 1987, American experts stated that, “Dramatically different outcomes might not be downright unlikely, but only less than the expected outcome. The expected outcome, thought the most likely, might nonetheless be unlikely . . . most sinister of all, but almost surely present, are the ‘unknown unknowns' of which operational planners are not even aware.” (Managing Nuclear Operations, by A.Carter, J.Steinbruner and C.Zraket, 1987, p.612)
Finally, Lieber and Press too often refer to history to confirm the correctness of their conclusions. As they suggest, the experience of the Cold War gives them the right to believe that “the possibility of a U.S. nuclear attack should not be entirely dismissed.” We think, however, that historical parallels are always dangerous. But in the given case they are absolutely inadmissible. At least, such conclusions should not be used as the basis for a scientific argument.
We believe the noted shortcomings of both the mathematical modeling and the approach to the assessment of modeling results are enough to consider the main conclusion of Lieber and Press as incorrect. The U.S. cannot eliminate Russian nuclear forces by means of a surprise attack without causing unacceptable damage to itself. We are confident that neither the U.S. nor Russia will obtain “Nuclear Primacy” in the future.
However, in order to adequately resolve this ultimate question, a joint working group of American and Russian official experts should be organized to model all possible present and future scenarios of a nuclear war. Such joint modeling is possible, with the help of already known data plus conditional ones, without inflicting any damage on the national security of both countries. And the results of this cooperation must be open to the public.
It is of the utmost importance that both the U.S. and the Russian Federation permanently demonstrate to the satisfaction of each other that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
Global Research Articles by Valery Yarynich"
Friday, October 16, 2009
Nuke Wing Commander Loses Job After Series of Screw Ups
The Minot AFB in North Dakota which has had more than its fair share of "unusual incidents" involving nuclear weapons has had the wing commander relieved of duty after yet more bizzare incidents:
"The U.S. Air Force yesterday removed an officer from his post as missile wing commander at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota following a string of weapons mishaps at the site, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Aug. 19)....
"Col. Christopher Ayres led the 91st Missile Wing, which manages 150 Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles deployed in silos around the state.
Ayres was not held directly responsible for any of the incidents, which included three missile personnel dozing off last year while in possession of ballistic missile launch codes (see GSN, July 15). In another incident, a truck turned over while carrying a Minuteman 3 ballistic missile rocket booster near the base. In addition, a Minot service member has been charged with taking a missile launch controller, reportedly as a memento (see GSN, Aug. 1, 2008)."
The truck accident was caused by a large unidentified insect:
"An Air Force report blames an insect for a vehicle accident involving personnel from a nuclear missile base in Minot, North Dakota.
The accident happened back in August in North Dakota.
A truck driver lost control of a semi-trailer carrying missile parts from Minot Air Force Base.
The reports says the driver was distracted by a "large insect" that flew in a window and landed on the driver's back.
The truck overturned on a gravel road and was carrying rocket engine parts for the missile - but no nuclear material.
No word on the cost of the cleanup or the type of bug."
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Siberian Parking Lot Doubling as Nuclear Waste Center
In case you were wondering what to do with your left over recycled uranium and plutonium from the backyard reactor, Der Spiegel informs us that there may be a parking lot in Siberia that can store your hot stuff:
"The largest utility company in Europe, Électricité de France, has been accused of storing nuclear waste in an open air car park in Siberia. An investigative documentary called the "Nuclear Nightmare" that screened on Tuesday in Germany and France accuses the company of sending nuclear waste to a town in Siberia where it is then stored in metal containers in a parking lot.
The containers, the makers of the documentary -- French documentary director Eric Guéret and French journalist Laure Noualhat of the newspaper Libération -- report, are in the Siberian town of Seversk, formerly a secret "closed city" where there are several nuclear reactors, plants for reprocessing uranium and plutonium as well as storage and production facilities for nuclear weapons. Although the Russian town now appears on maps, entry into the area is still restricted to locals. Noualhat told SPIEGEL ONLINE that although they visited the outskirts of the city during their research, they were not able to get in themselves. However, they did interview contacts who worked in the nuclear industry inside the city. And apparently the containers can also be seen via satellite images."
Well what's the fuss? This no doubt is a very high security Siberian parking lot/ storage facility.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Gazprom Skyscrapers and Gas
Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, has annoounced plans to ramp up its U.S. operations while dealing with anti-oligarch/business sentiment as ilustrated by a recent blockade of their offices in St. Petersburg by the National Bolshivek Party as documented in the above video.
Americans may be interested to know that in the next ten years up to 10% of natural gas supplies may be coming from Gazprom:
"HOUSTON -- The new trading desk in North America for Gazprom, the largest producer of natural gas in the world, sits halfway up the 56-story Bank of America tower in the heart of the America's energy capital. So far, the office, which started trading contracts last week for the first time, is quiet. That won't last.
"Our target for volume growth is pretty strong," says John Hattenberger, president of Gazprom Marketing & Trading USA, an arm of the Russian behemoth that claims 17% of the world’s natural gas reserves. "If we could hit 5% [of the U.S. market] in the next five years, that would be about right. In 10 years, I think we could get to 10%." U.S. demand for natural gas is about 60 billion cubic feet a day."
Meanwhile back in Russia a proposed 1200 ft. high skyscraper for Gazprom has drawn vigorous opposition from a wide slice of popular opinion who have a deeper sense of history and aesthetics than your average oligarch.
Monday, October 05, 2009
Living On Borrowed Time
Russia Today interviews American economist Max Wolf on the perilous state of economy in spite of the so-called recovery. Unlike many in the financial sector who have confused a "stock recovery" with a real recovery he points out the impact on the American consumer and worker is not likely to be repaired anytime soon:
"“We are all waiting to see the private sector – that is 80% of the US economy – pick up and start growing again. It has not done that yet,” Max Wolf explains.
He also indicates that there is a common belief in America’s powerful circles and media that if the top 20% of the population is doing better, then the whole of America is doing better.
“The problem with that story is that we don’t know if it’ll last, and it’s left 80% of the public behind, and this is a big problem,” he said.
“And so, we don’t know how long the bottom 80% will be okay with this, we don’t know how long the government can keep spending, and we don’t know how long we have to wait until our private sector basically kicks back into high gear, starts hiring, starts growing and starts being more profitable,” the economist clarified.....
As a result of the cumulative mistakes in the government policies, another serious letdown in the US and global economy will definitely happen soon, Max Wolf says:
“The question is when. We’ve done a lot of things that are dangerous, so we could have it quite soon.”
“We have done absolutely nothing to basically change the root causes of those problems in the economy, which means we’re living on borrowed time,” he added...
So what are the roots of the problem? The economist names the wage of an average American, which has stayed flat for too long:
“For 35 years the average American’s wages has gone nowhere. They’ve been flat… And the problem we have now is that they cannot borrow that much again. And if Americans do not borrow, and their wages don’t go up… this becomes a problem, because 70% of the US GDP is private consumption.”
Moreover, 15% of the economic activity in the world, Wolf says, is American private consumption:
“If that turns down, which it has, and if it stays down, which it likely will, this means we basically push down economic activity for all 6.2 billion people on Earth.”
Harsh words are directed to the media's coverage which predictably reflects the upper 20% of the population:
"“What we’ve been celebrating for the last four months is that life is getting worse for the average American more slowly than it was getting for the average American last year. The bottom 80% of people in this country are continuing to struggle,” he added.
The coverage of the crisis in the United States represents another problem. The country’s media seem to be trying to distract common Americans from reality by following the two-part rule, the economist says: “exaggerate and simplify.”
Saturday, October 03, 2009
EU: Georgia Started 2008 War
The EU report on the short-lived war between Georgia, South Ossetia, and Russia has been released and while accusing the Russians of disproportionate response clearly lays the blame at the door of Georgia and the government of Saakashvili. Here are a few exerpts:
"An investigation into last year's Russia-Georgia war delivered a damning indictment of President Mikheil Saakashvili today, accusing Tbilisi of launching an indiscriminate artillery barrage on the city of Tskhinvali that started the war.......The EU-commissioned report, by a fact-finding mission of more than 20 political, military, human rights and international law experts led by the Swiss diplomat, Heidi Tagliavini, was unveiled in Brussels today after nine months of work.
"There is no way to assign overall responsibility for the conflict to one side alone," the report found.
But the conclusions will discomfit the western-backed Georgian leader, Saakashvili, who was found to have started the war with the attack on Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, on the night of 7 August last year, through a "penchant for acting in the heat of the moment".
The war started "with a massive Georgian artillery attack", the report said, citing an order from Saakashvili that the offensive was aimed at halting Russian military units moving into South Ossetia.
Flatly dismissing Saakashvili's version, the report said: "There was no ongoing armed attack by Russia before the start of the Georgian operation ... Georgian claims of a large-scale presence of Russian armed forces in South Ossetia prior to the Georgian offensive could not be substantiated ... It could also not be verified that Russia was on the verge of such a major attack."
The conflict became somewhat of an issue in last year's presidential election especially after it was learned that McCains top foreign policy advisor was recieving hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Georgian government.
We Don't Like You or Your Border Guards
The recent decision by the IOC to bypass Chicago for the 2016 Olympics has generated all kinds of reaction including predictable right-wing Obama bashing as reported at TPM and somewhat reluctant acceptance that world has changed and they just don't like the USA that much.
Daily Kos reports on a less discussed possbilty, namely that just getting into the USA is as about as easy and visitor friendly as entering the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War:
" So when did wingnuts start cheering against America? Their unbridled joy at losing out to Brazil is a bit unseemly, isn't it? "America, fuck yeah!" has become "Fuck America, Yeah!"
While Chicago likely lost mostly because the country has hosted plenty of Olympics and South America never has, and because of lingering anti-American sentiment, this certainly didn't help:
"However, the triumphant Chicago presentation--the culmination of a $48 million package--had cold water thrown onto it when Pakistani IOC member Syed Shahid Ali correctly noted the significant difficulties facing foreigners seeking entry into the United States. Obama failed to address Ali's concerns, saying only that hosting the Games in Chicago would be "a reminder that America at its best is open to the world."
America's visa processing issues have been well-publicized throughout much of the world, with some tourists waiting six months or more to have a 10 minute appointment with a visa examiner in an embassy or consulate to visit America on a vacation. Business visas or those for cultural ambassadors, like artists and athletes, are similarly problematic. Many applicants complain that the system is opaque at best and a crap shoot at worst, with few guidelines provided for applicants and rejections issued pro forma.
The Wall Street Journal speculates that Chicago's loss stems has more to do with the heavy European membership at the IOC and Latin American IOC members lining up behind Rio; however, the visa issue has been an growing problem since new requirements were issued after 9/11. Perhaps the Chicago loss will provide some much-needed political impetus to finally spur legitimate discussions of political reform."
You create a fortress America to keep people out, they won't go out of their way fighting to bring international events inside your fortifications.
I hear wingnuts are agitating against America hosting the next Super Bowl.
Remember when liberals celebrated New York City losing out on the 2012 Olympics? You don't? "
While the world is generally supportive of Obama's goals enunciated during the election, they, like the majority of American population, are awaiting tangible proof of real change. The American wingnuts in their gloating will be seen as doing their best to accelerate the American race to the bottom.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Annual Polar Meltdown Roundup
This is the third year I've covered this subject and while not a record setter this year turns out to be the third greatest arctic melt since such things have been followed by satellite since 1979. The National Snow and Ice Data Center puts things in perspective:
"This year, the minimum extent did not fall as low as the minimums of the last two years, because temperatures through the summer were relatively cooler. The Chukchi and Beaufort seas were especially cool compared to 2007. Winds also tended to disperse the ice pack over a larger region.
While the ice extent this year is higher than the last two years, scientists do not consider this to be a recovery. Despite conditions less favorable to ice loss, the 2009 minimum extent is still 24% below the 1979-2000 average, and 20% below the thirty-year 1979-2008 average minimum. In addition, the Arctic is still dominated by younger, thinner ice, which is more vulnerable to seasonal melt. The long-term decline in summer extent is expected to continue in future years."
The Guardian outlines additional perils besides sea level changes and coastal inundations. It seems that volcanoes earthquakes and other geologic phenomena may result due to climate change:
"Reports by international groups of researchers – to be presented at a London conference next week – will show that climate change, caused by rising outputs of carbon dioxide from vehicles, factories and power stations, will not only affect the atmosphere and the sea but will alter the geology of the Earth.
Melting glaciers will set off avalanches, floods and mud flows in the Alps and other mountain ranges; torrential rainfall in the UK is likely to cause widespread erosion; while disappearing Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets threaten to let loose underwater landslides, triggering tsunamis that could even strike the seas around Britain.
At the same time the disappearance of ice caps will change the pressures acting on the Earth's crust and set off volcanic eruptions across the globe. Life on Earth faces a warm future – and a fiery one.
"Not only are the oceans and atmosphere conspiring against us, bringing baking temperatures, more powerful storms and floods, but the crust beneath our feet seems likely to join in too," said Professor Bill McGuire, director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre, at University College London (UCL).
"Maybe the Earth is trying to tell us something," added McGuire, who is one of the organisers of UCL's Climate Forcing of Geological Hazards conference, which will open on 15 September. Some of the key evidence to be presented at the conference will come from studies of past volcanic activity. These indicate that when ice sheets disappear the number of eruptions increases, said Professor David Pyle, of Oxford University's earth sciences department."
As my friend Mark at Norwegianity has observed trying to have a science based discussion with the reality challenged crowd can be an exercise in futility.
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
--Philip K. Dick
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Welcome to the Police State, Welcome to the Jungle
Make this Viral Wearechange and Pittsburgh Police LRAD Confronat
After testing out Long Range Acoustic Devices in that Kavkaz center of dermocracy, Georgia of Saakashvili, the weapons are turned on the involuntary tax payers of the OKUSA (Oligarchic Kleptokracy of the United States of America) most recently at the Pittsburgh gathering of the ultra rich.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Mad as Hell Doctors in Madison
Mad As Hell Doctors made a much anticipated visit to Madison today to further the cause of healthcare for all Americans. A crowd of a thousand or so (according to Mrs. WINston smITh who attended the the rally and provided the above photos) greeted the physicians who've had enough on the steps of the Wisconsin Capitol. These guys along with a kindred group, Physicians for a National Health Plan represent at least 17,000 doctors who have had enough of the American hellth care system. Within the medical profession there is a growing division between the specialists and primary care providers about the need for real healthcare reform. What the politicians don't realize is that the whole system now is basically held together with the economic equivalent of string, chewing gum, and spit. In other words if this attempt at reform fails we will be be in a very bad (as in worse than now)place.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Fighting Bobfest 8
In a time when the main stream media is preoccupied with the likes of industry funded astroturfers and Joe Wilson it is more than refreshing to gather in Baraboo Wisconsin and hear the voices of sane progressives rail against the general insanity.
This year was no exception as the crowd of 5,000-10,000 was treated to a stellar lineup of speakers including Senator Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Scahill, Jim Hightower, Tom Harkin, and Greg Palast. A consistent theme throughout was healthcare reform, which every speaker rightly cast as a defining issue for President Obama and the entire country. It's quite obvious that failure to accomplish this will have far reaching reprecussions and will probably bring about a collapse of the entire American healthcare system (a word I use loosely). One of the truly enlightening moments was the appearance of Wendell Potter, a former health insurance executive and PR shill, whose insights were alone worth the trip. His apology should be mandatory viewing for freedom from healthcare nitwits everywhere. Here is an insightfull interview with Bill Moyers, another beacon of sanity in a sea of corporate disinformation:
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The Worst Generation and the Dead Parrot
Ted Kennedy died and so with him some of the best attributes of an otherwise dismal generation. I refer to the Baby Boomers, an insufferable lot who gave us the likes of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and myself.When you look around at American society and its many short comings keep us in mind whether its schools that teach nothing and resemble medium security prisons or mile after mile of McMansion subdivisions and strip malls.Now it appears that we will drag down our offspring and their progeny for years if not decades to come. Dave Cohen fills in the blanks in this illuminating if not depressing article. Here are some highlights if you can call them that:
"I was born in 1953, which makes me a post-World War II “Baby Boomer” (those born between 1946 and 1964). First off, I want to issue a blanket apology to younger cohorts (generations X & Y) for the excesses of my generation. No generation in the human history was given so large an opportunity to ravage the Earth through excess consumption, and Boomers did not squander that opportunity. No generation has adversely affected the welfare of future generations as the Boomers have. So much for Woodstock and the Age of Aquarius...
"I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “spend money like there’s no tomorrow.” That’s precisely what the Boomers did. It was an unprecedented debt-fueled spending spree made possible by easy credit. See my Don’t Buy Stuff You Can Not Afford for some details. As Bill Bonner put it at the Daily Reckoning, that household debt now “represents spending that has been taken from the future.”
The first Boomers reach retirement age in 2011. Business Week reports that it has long been expected that aging Boomers would cash out and decrease their spending. But the real Big Chill arrived a few years early.
When 79 million people—nearly a third of Americans—start spending less and saving more, you know it won’t be pretty. According to consulting firm McKinsey, boomers’ conversion to thrift could stifle the economy’s hoped-for rebound and knock U.S. growth down from the 3.2% it has averaged since 1965 to 2.4% over the next 30 years. “We would have gotten here in 5 or 10 years as boomers retire, but [the economic crisis] pushed it up,” says Michael Sinoway, managing director of consulting firm AlixPartners. “Now [companies] are scared things won’t come back”…
Not so long ago, boomers were never going to die. Filled with a self-confidence born of unprecedented prosperity, many thought rising markets would assure their future. If the economy faltered, well, it would rebound more strongly than ever, as it had so many times before. And so boomers spent—and borrowed—as if there were no tomorrow.
Tomorrow is here. With retirement looming, the Great Recession has put Boomers into emergency thrift mode. Unsurprisingly, McKinsey Quarterly reports that most of them are unprepared for their golden years.
The low savings rate and extensive liabilities of the boomers have left about two-thirds of them unprepared for retirement. We reached this conclusion by assessing the level of post-retirement income and assets that the boomers would need to maintain 80 percent of their peak pre-retirement spending.This analysis—based on net financial assets such as bank deposits, stocks, and bonds, minus credit card balances, car loans, and other non-mortgage debt—indicates that 69 percent of the boomers are not prepared to maintain their lifestyles. The inclusion of home equity, whose value is declining in many regions below the levels prevailing when we undertook our analysis, only reduces the proportion of the unprepared to 62 percent.
The home equity situation is not improving. According to American CoreLogic, more than 15.2 million (32.2%) of all mortgaged properties were in negative equity in June, 2009. (Negative equity means your mortgage debt exceeds the value of your house.) An additional 2.5 million homeowners were nearly underwater. Although the rate of decline in home prices has slowed, it is not at all clear that we have reached the bottom in the housing market. Beyond home equity, Boomers’ net worth has taken a huge hit as asset values fall. Many Boomers will have to work longer than they anticipated.
Economists and demographers say Boomers will need to replace some $2 trillion of wealth lost in retirement funds [e.g. 401k plans] during the recent stock meltdown, plus the billions in home equity that have vanished in the housing crash. Government policy makers will have to figure out how to provide for a huge cohort of people who could live well into their 80s.
McKinsey found that the Boomer spending accounted for an astonishing 78% of GDP growth during the “bubble years” from 1995 to 2007. Much of that spending will disappear. The “generational crash” will be a drag on the economy for years to come."
"In this and other columns I have cast doubt on a prosperous future for the United States. Since 1983, the American consumers—rhymes with Boomers—spent tomorrow’s wealth today. GDP growth depended on ever-greater borrowing and was thus systematically inflated. All this time America’s industrial base declined (moved to China) and its (no longer cheap) imported oil dependency grew to ~66% of total consumption. To keep the party going after 1995, the U.S. blew two enormous bubbles, one in the NASDAQ and a much larger one in housing. We used those bubbles to float up to the mountain top, where all that thin air made us giddy. Now we’re sobering up as reality propels us down the other side.
The boom times are over. A secular change has now taken place. The U.S. will look more and more like a Third World country. In health care, compared to Canada or Europe, it already does. Thus our prospects for another economic boom in the next decade are like those of Monty Python’s famous Norwegian Blue parrot—
“This bleeding parrot wouldn’t boom if I put 4 thousand volts through it! It’s bleeding demised… It’s not pining for the fjords, it’s passed on. This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late parrot. It’s a stiff! Bereft of Life, it rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed it to the perch, it would be pushing up the daisies! It’s run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot!!!”
American Economy 1983-2007: Requiescat in pace
Forget about a “V-shaped” recovery or Ben Bernanke’s “green shoots.” This parrot is no more, it has ceased to be."
Yeah I'm sorry too.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The Legacy of Tommy Douglas vs. Brain-Eating Zombies
The American Right is having a field day as it uses fear and outright lies to derail any meaningful reform of the pay or die U.S. health care system. An integral part of the fear mongering is attacking other countries health care delivery systems, notably Canada's and the British NHS. Right-wing Americans are detached from reality and inhabit a conspiracy laden universe happily served up by corporate infotainment and thus are unaware that countries outside of their historical and geographical vacuum have begun to take notice of the lies and deceptions.
Canadians for instance take exception to Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky dissing their system as noted by this in the Ottawa Citizen:
"In Senator McConnell's home state of Kentucky, one out of three people under age 65 do not have any health insurance. They don't have to worry about wait times for hip or knee replacement or cancer surgery -- they can't get care. The median household income in Kentucky is $37,186 -- not quite enough for the $97,000 bill at the Mayo Clinic. CNN didn't mention that in its "Reality Check."
As the debate on health care reform heats up the United States, it seems certain that Canada's public health care system will be used, or more accurately misused, in the battle for hearts and minds. For years, Canadians have feared the American health care system; now Americans are being told to fear ours."
Others have a somewhat more visceral opinion of the freedom from heath care nitwits to the south. I particularly enjoyed the remarks of United Steelworkers International President, Leo Gerard, reported in the Toronto Star:
"Gerard said it was hard to stomach the right-wing attack on Canada's universal health care system as their ways of whipping public sentiment against U.S. President Barack Obama's health care plan.
"Many of you must be watching ... in disbelief at the bunch of nut bars, hairpins and lunatics collectively and every right-wing (nut) ... in the United States of America who is parading around during this health care debate," he said.
When Gerard asked if anyone in the room would give up Canadian health care for the private sector-driven system that exists in the U.S., where 48 million American don't have health care it was a resounding no.
"Remember this, when the wrong people win our most prized possession, which is health care, is put at risk," he said."
Not to be outdone British commentator, Simon Hoggart, has the following to say in his aptly entitled column, "Why the American Right Makes Me Sick":
"There are few tribes more loathsome than the American right, and their vicious use of the shortcomings in the NHS to attack Barack Obama's attempts at health reform are a useful reminder."
While Canadians do have complaints about health care it's informative to know the esteem in which its chief architect, Tommy Douglas is held is such that he was selected the "Greatest Canadian" in a poll conducted by the CBC in 2004. There he nosed out the likes of Pierre Trudeau and Wayne Gretzky.
Meanwhile in the U.S. hordes of brain-eating zombies, hepped up on samples of patent protected Viagra, Aricept, and Chantix, descend on townhalls throughout the land at the behest of insurance companies, big pharma, Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh. President Obama has his work cut out for him.
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